Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is the Metro Editor for WNYC News. She has previously served as Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
Mayors of both Chicago and New York said Tuesday they'd be making the locations of snow plows public during winter storms via public websites that will show GPS tracking information.
While the idea of a snowplow tracker isn't new -- it exists in Montgomery County and Howard County, Maryland, just to name a couple -- New York and Chicago would be the first major cities to deploy this technology.
Mayor Bloomberg hit once of the lowest moments of his mayoralty last winter when New York ground to a halt during the blizzard of 2010. It was particularly frustrating for outer-borough residents when streets outside of Manhattan went unplowed for days (while the Mayor recommended they take in a Broadway show.)
Also galling: city officials were increasingly unable to tell members of the public (or even elected officials) when streets would be cleared.
In an information vacuum, WNYC developed a plowed street tracker, based on crowd-sourced information. Later, Mayor Bloomberg promised to add GPS to all snow plows. But that information wasn't made available to the public. Yet.
Enter Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel (who wasn't even in office last winter), a notorious type-A techno-geek, announced with some fanfare Tuesday that city would set up a Plow Tracker. "During major snow cleanup efforts," according to a press release, " the City will activate the real-time 'Plow Tracker' map, allowing the public to track the progress of City snow plows and make snow removal efforts more transparent."
Looks like Emanuel may have upstaged Bloomberg (himself something of a type A techno-geek)
Asked at a press conference (on an unrelated subject) Tuesday whether New York would be making snow plow location information available on a public website, Mayor Bloomberg said:
"Yeah, we have a whole plan we'll get you very quickly. We've been enhancing what we do. I don't know that it necessarily improves our ability to plow. We have the routes and we're gonna do it, but it does let you see where plows went and when they went there, and that's all. Our best thing so far is my strategy so far. Look outside - streets are clean, no snow."
While Chicago's website is now live (www.cityshovels.org), New York City officials cautioned that it's not yet clear what the New York website will look like, or when it will be up and running.